Sunday, February 14, 2010

Community Rallies to Support Retired Businessman Ernie Belwood

It does not take long for newcomers to Sandpoint to realize that this town has an unusually strong sense of community spirit.

And there are few who have contributed more to that spirit than Sandpoint’s Ernie Belwood. There is a saying that what goes around, comes around, and now it is Sandpoint’s turn to give back to the retired businessman who has done much for this community over the last several decades.

Before Christmas, Belwood was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He has been in Oregon since early January, undergoing treatment at the Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital. According to his close friend, Bobbie Huguenin, Belwood is fighting for his life and is in for a long road ahead as he recovers from surgery and treatment.

His recovery has been prolonged by complications from surgery due to a suture that did not hold. Belwood has fought infections but Huguenin said he is improving every day. It has been a painful process, she said, but Belwood’s sense of humor and remarkable attitude have shone through.

“Throughout it all, he managed to find some ways to be funny,” said Huguenin. “He has the great gift of natural wit and an outstanding sense of humor.”

Belwood retired from his furniture business in 2004, leaving his daughter, Lori, to run the family store, Belwood’s Furniture. But the family chose to close the downtown landmark last summer to concentrate on other business ventures and so Ernie could fully enjoy retirement. Hearts were saddened to see the doors of Belwood’s Furniture close, but many were happy for the family as it truly was a decision made out of choice and not driven by the economy.

As a tribute to the man who has been a downtown businessman and active community member for more than 35 years, the Sandpoint Lions Club chose Belwood to be the Grand Marshal for last summer’s Fourth of July parade.

As Belwood recovers in Oregon, there is much love and support echoing through this community. Last weekend more than 100 friends and family members gathered at Sandpoint’s City Beach to attend what they called an Ernie Event. They made a giant card for Belwood and the Sandpoint Fire Department was on hand with its large ladder truck to take an aerial photo of the gathering. It was a message of love being sent across the miles.

Other Ernie fans are soliciting donations to help defray the family’s expenses including accommodations, meals and transportation. Linda Plaster, Sharon Rench McCormick and Huguenin all agree that it is time to give back to the man who never said no when asked by the many organizations for donations to local causes.

Sandpoint City Councilwoman Marsha Ogilvie was involved with Kinderhaven, a home for abused and neglected children, from the time it opened in 1996. She said without the generosity of Ernie Belwood, the home’s beginning would not have been the same.

“He immediately said yes to helping with the first fundraiser for Kinderhaven,” said Ogilvie. “He had never met me, didn’t know who I was, but he didn’t hesitate with his answer.”

Because Kinderhaven had limited funds, Belwood allowed them to purchase the furniture, appliances and other home furnishings on credit.

“When you have more you can pay more, he told us,” said Ogilvie.

When the organizers of an event for Sandpoint’s Women Honoring Women called upon Ernie to help set up a big screen and video at the last minute, Belwood did not hesitate.

“Ernie rushed over in his pajamas and made everything right,” said Ogilvie. “Because of Uncle Ernie the event went off without a hitch.”

So thank you, Ernie Belwood, for showing the people of Sandpoint what the meaning of community is.

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